With Ray Rice’s domestic violence scandal dominating headlines, advertisers are reminded again that bad behavior can cost more than just a criminal sentence—it can tarnish your own brand.
Endorsement deals with athletes and celebrities are made because of their favorable public image, but brands are often quick to flee when that reputation is in jeopardy. And that’s exactly what’s happening to Rice as big brand names like Nike and Madden are dumping the former NFL player from his endorsement deals.
Though Rice is hardly the first public figure to fall from grace and sponsorship deals. These five celebrities behaved badly and paid the price.
1. Lance Armstrong
The golden boy of cycling, Lance Armstrong was widely loved from both Americans and the global cycling community. The athlete had a well-publicized story of overcoming cancer to win the Tour de France a consecutive seven times. Armstrong also founded the Livestrong foundation for cancer victims that spawned the ubiquitous yellow bracelet trend.
It seemed Armstrong could do no wrong until 2012 when reports surfaced that from the U.S. Anti-Doping Society that the cyclist has been using performance enhancing drugs. Soon after the reports went public, brands started dropping Armstrong from his endorsement deals. Nike and Anheuser-Busch both ended deals with Armstrong.
The cyclist also stepped down from his position with his Livestrong charity.
2. Chris Brown
For a short time musicians Chris Brown and Rhianna were a power couple of pop music. That reign ended Grammy day in 2009 when — instead of performing at the awards ceremony — Chris Brown was detained by the LAPD.
After an altercation between the couple left Rihanna badly beaten and hospitalized, Brown turned himself in to the police. Pictures soon surfaced of Rhianna’s bruised face, escalating the media frenzy surrounding the situation. Almost immediately, both Nike and Wrigley retracted their endorsement deals with Brown – proving that just like the incident with Rice, domestic violence is a deal breaker.
Despite a prison sentence in 2009 for firearm possession, rapper T.I. came out looking stronger with a hit album and line of big brand endorsement deals that added to his empire. But late August 2010, everything came crashing down yet again when T.I. and his wife were arrested on drug possession charges. The charges violated T.I.’s probation and the rapper was sentenced to 11 months in prison.
After the sentence was handed out, T.I. received more bad news as brand after brand started to cut ties with the rapper. The bad behavior cost T.I. sizeable deals with Rémy Martin cognac and Axe Body Spray prior to serving his second prison sentence.
4. Michael Phelps
Arguably the biggest swimming star of all time, Michael Phelps was sitting on top of the world after a record breaking run of eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. His athletic achievements scored the swimmer a big endorsement deal with Kellogg’s brand that featured his face on a line of food and snack products.
In early 2009, a photo of Phelps smoking marijuana from a bong ran in a British tabloid. After his admission that the photo was real, USA Swimming – the sport’s governing body – suspended Phelps from competition for three months. When Phelp’s contract with Kellog’s was up for renewal, the brand decided not to renew because his image was no longer in line with Kellog’s brand ideals.
5. Kate Moss
The British model’s meteoric rise to the top of the fashion world in the 1990s ushered in an era of “heroin chic”—meaning it was fashionable to look a bit grungy and gaunt. The heroin chic phase eventually faded, but Moss’s star remained bright as she continued to rake in endorsement deals from clothing and makeup lines ranging from fashion house Chanel to Rimmel, a low price point makeup line.
Moss’s modeling career looked like it was in serious jeopardy, however, when in late-2004 pictures surfaced of the model snorting cocaine. H&M dropped the model first, with Burberry following and Chanel deciding not to renew her contract. As endorsements are a huge part of a supermodel’s income, Moss’s yearly income took a hit. Though after Moss spent a few months laying low, the fashion world welcomed her back with open arms. Now Moss is the fourth highest paid model in the world, with a yearly salary of $7 million.
Mattie Quinn contributed to this feature.